As the rest of the world wades through the 250,000 classified American diplomatic cables now available on WikiLeaks, Burmese are having to make do with just one intriguing behind-the-scenes glimpse of the internal workings of their country's ruling regime: a video of former military intelligence chief Khin Nyunt that first appeared one week ago and has now resurfaced, this time with audio.
A week after a 16-minute silent video of Khin Nyunt receiving a visit at his home from police chief Khin Yi and other senior police officials was first posted on Facebook, a new, seven-minute version with sound has begun circulating on YouTube.
|Khin Nyunt, former military intelligence chief. (Photo: AP)|
However, the new version makes it clear that the video was filmed sometime shortly after the former spy chief and prime minister was ousted from power and placed under house arrest in October 2004.
When he first appears at the door of his stately home to let his visitors in, Khin Nyunt remarks that the lights in the living room are not working. He is then seen seated at a table in the dining room, where he and Khin Yi begin talking.
When Khin Yi asks him and his wife, Khin Win Shwe, to accompany him to another location, the 70-year-old Khin Nyunt responds irritably: “My sons and son-in-law have already been taken away. If we both leave the house, there will be no one to take care of our grandchildren.”
He adds that the children are not allowed to go to school because the whole family has been “cut off from the outside.”
“We just live according to the regulations imposed on us by the security authorities.”
Seconds later, however, he softens his tone and says: “We will follow you anyway. Don't worry. Take it easy. I am not a person opposed to the state.”
This exchange suggests that the video was taken around the time Khin Nyunt was first placed under house arrest after being accused of corruption. As the regime moved to dismantle his powerful military intelligence network, Than Shwe signed a statement that Khin Nyunt had been “permitted to retire on health grounds.”
However, in July 2005, Khin Nyunt was tried by a Special Tribunal inside Rangoon's Insein Prison on eight charges, including export-import violations, diverting public property, bribery and corruption. Later, he received a 44-year suspended prison sentence and was placed under house arrest.
Two of Khin Nyunt's sons, Lt-Col Zaw Naing Oo and Ye Naing Win, who owned Burma's first Internet service provider, Bagan Cybertech, which later became known as Myanmar Teleport, received prison sentences of 68 and 51 years, respectively.
At that time, about 300 people linked to the former prime minister were also put on trial, with more than 40 convicted, mainly for “economic crimes.” Some received sentences of more than 100 years.
During his time in power, Khin Nyunt was often described by foreign observers as the most moderate and outward-looking member of the junta. However, political prisoners say that military intelligence officers under his command routinely used torture on detainees.
Former military officer Sai Thein Win, who now lives in exile in Europe, said the video of Khin Nyunt being treated as a prisoner made him feel a certain amount of pity, “but as a Buddhist, I can say only that one must always receive the results of one's karma.”
(16-minute sound file video of Khin Nyunt receiving a visit at his home from police chief Khin Yi and other senior police officials)